Recycling is a matter of life or death. Not only affecting products, recycling can restore the air we breathe, the health of humans and animals, and the amount of time that we have on this earth. If we ignore this and do not recycle as much as possible, then life as we know it will end. The air will get harder to breathe, water will become toxic, trees and plants will die off, and animals will become extinct. Last will be humans. Recycling is a circle that can either keep going around or eventually come to an end. It is up to us humans to decide on what we want to happen to the future. If we make the wrong decision or think that this is being exaggerated, then we will all have a big wake up call. Recycling is important. It not only proves that life can be restored, but also that small things can make a big difference.
The products that are produced every day affect us in many ways. Resources like coal, oil, and gas are overproduced and instead could be reduced by just recycling. These energy sources are considered to be nonrenewable because it takes longer to reproduce or replenish in the time it takes to need again. Crude oil, like petroleum, is used to make things like gasoline, diesel fuel, and oil that heats homes. Natural gases like propane, butane, and ethane are also found in oil and considered to be fossil fuels, which were formed millions of years ago from the buried remains of plants and animals. If we were to recycle all the renewable products, then we could save over two-trillion trees a year. We could potentially heat 50,000,000 homes for twenty years if we recycled all the wood and paper that was thrown out each year (40 Interesting Facts).
Not only does not recycling affect our natural resources, but it also takes effect on our environment. One of the biggest problems is that trash is primarily thrown into landfills, which is very hazardous. Landfills contain toxins that will eventually leak into the soil and groundwater. Not only does it take years for the trash to break down, but the substances will release arsenic, acids, and lead which will eventually end up in our environment and threaten our public’s health (Bausback).
Another issue with using landfills is that when the landfill waste breaks down and water filters through the waste, a liquid chemical called Leachate is formed. The biggest cause of this is rain falling down on the landfill, forming groundwater with many harmful chemicals. As this liquid Leachate seeps down through the decomposed waste components, chemicals like Methane, Carbon Dioxide, Organic Acids, Alcohols, and Aldehydes are formed, creating a toxic “cocktail” in the air surrounding it. All of this will produce greenhouse gases that is twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide and will create a lot of trouble for our environment. Methane itself is flammable and in these large applications in the landfills, can be very dangerous.
For years, recycling has been seen as a hobby. Many people did not believe that it was necessary to reuse everyday products or even think of sorting their trash to recycle. It was nice that all they had to do was throw their trash in a bag and put it out to discard. It was too much work to sort things or even take them to where they needed to go to be recycled. This is the main reason that we have issues with recycling. It is because people feel like recycling is not worth the work since they do not receive money for what they turn in, or that they feel it would not make a difference if they did recycle. The fact is that one person can make a difference just because of the amount of trash that is produced every year from each individual.
Recycling has been well-known for useful ever since the ninth century. Japan was the first to realize that paper could be reconstructed after use and be made as new again. This became a trend and the recycled paper became more valued because of how it proved that life could be restored (A Brief History). In the 16th century, the New World began recycling linen and rags made from cotton. These materials were produced to make Bibles and newspapers. By World War II, there was a lot of need for tin, rubber, steel, and paper to save money for the war. In the 1960s, yard waste, metals, and paper were first seen being left at the curb for pick up. The 1970s were a big part of the recycling movement. Earth Day was first celebrated on April 22, 1970 and the recycling symbol was created. In 1976, Massachusetts was the first state to receive an EPA recycling grant, allowing to implement weekly curbside pickup with a $20,000 residential recycling truck. All of this led to what we have today with recycling. It is even more common than it was back then and making a difference in not only our environment, but also our health because of less being thrown into landfills.
There are a lot of things that can be recycled, reused, or even composted, rather than just being thrown into a landfill. Paper is the most popular thing used that could be easily recycled. Paper and cardboard are both things that would help save the lives of trees if they were recycled, as they are 34% of the most common waste. There are a lot of things made out of these two things and most can be recycled, like gift bags, gift boxes, wrapping paper, and boxes. The biggest issue is that those that products that have coating, like a lot of wrapping paper, isn’t recyclable (How do I recycle). The best thing to do is to always look for the recyclable picture when buying products so that less of the other types will be made. When sales are lacking on a certain product, then companies will make fewer and concentrate more on what is selling. That is why it is very important to look for recyclable items when shopping.
Plastic is another issue we have with recycling. There is a lot that has the recycling symbol, but even more that doesn’t. All plastic will have symbols on them, identifying what kind of plastic resin was used in producing the product. Not every type is recyclable because of the chemicals that were used in the production. In 2015, out of 35 million tons of plastic that were made that year, only 13% would not be recyclable, yet only 9.1% of those materials were recycled. Water bottles are a very common plastic that is bought in bulk. While the bottle part is nearly always recyclable, the plastic around the bottles generally are not, and neither are the caps. Caps are known to clog the machines used in recycling and the wraps are made from a plastic that is not considered to be recyclable.
Glass is something that is said to be able to be recycled continuously, but most recycling places will only take a certain type because they are “impractical” (Baskind). The best to recycle are bottles or jars that have the symbol on them, but compact fluorescent lightbulbs are usually fine as well. However, they do contain a small amount of mercury so it would be important to check with the recycling centers to see how they need to be dealt with. Glass is a good thing to recycle because it is cheaper for companies to use recycled glass instead of raw materials.
Aluminum is very commonly used, especially for cans. Aluminum is recyclable and used for a lot of things, like fruit and vegetable cans, foil, and baking pans. Although aluminum is a metal, it is very easily melted and used over and over again. Most metals are recyclable and those are the ones that are in the most demand. Things like steel, tin, brass, copper, iron and even aluminum can usually be taken to places who will buy the metal to be remade into useful products. Metals are very commonly used in a lot of things, including automobiles, appliances, buildings, instruments, and medical devices. They are materials that will always be recyclable as long as they are used and returned.
There are a lot of things that are recyclable but even more things that are considered to be nonrecyclable. This is either because of how they are made or because it is too complicated to recycle in bulk amounts. A lot of things would need to be taken apart and separated, washed, coded, or arranged by types. All of this is a lot of work that recycling centers do not want to mess with because it slows them down or could potentially damage their equipment. This is the case with water bottle caps. Even though they are plastic, they are made from a different type which is harder to break down than the bottle itself. If the bottle caps are combined with the water bottles, then they would slow the process down or even jam up the equipment so they must be separated and considered to be not recyclable.
Even though a lot of products cannot be taken to a recycling center, there are a lot can be recycled or reused in your own home. One common thing that is done is cutting down ripped towels and making them into wash rags. Also, a lot of people will reuse common jars, like mason jars, and use them for the canning process of fruits and vegetables. Aerosol cans are technically not recyclable because of the chemicals that were inside them but depending on the facility, there are some that are okay to be recycled. Household glass is also something that has some recycling issues. Although glass is considered to be always reusable, there are a lot of types that are not recyclable. It is considered to be impractical because of how many different types there are and the separation of the product. Things like light bulbs are too big of a risk because of the mercury that is inside them. It would be a lot of work to separate everything, so these are considered to be non-recyclable. This is the same with tires. Even though the rubber can be separated and used for a lot of different things, it is a lot of work to do it and not very common to be recycled.
According to “Recycling: The Good, The Better, The Best”, the average family throws away six trees worth of paper per year. This may not seem like a lot but trees affect our environment in a lot of ways. Tearing them down and not replacing them could cause the extinction of a lot of insects and even animals. They also state that every ton of paper that is recycled will save seven trees, along with a lot of things like water and landfill space. Recycling has been proven to save our environment in a lot of ways, including adding jobs. For every one job created because of recycling, it adds four jobs to the team because of the extra work that is involved with recycling. In gross annual sales of recycling plants, which averages to be around $236 billion, $37 billion of that is annual payroll to those who work in the industry. It will continue to grow as more people start to recycle, not only saving trees but the economy as a whole.
Recycling is something that can save and renew a lot of things. It has a lot of advantages that would affect our life as a whole because recycling affects so many areas. Not only does it help things keep growing, but it adds jobs, teaches responsibility, promotes wellness, allows creativity with art and recycling, and makes technology smarter. If we did not recycle everything that we could, landfills would grow and the smell that surrounds them would escalate. Prices for things we buy would increase if we didn’t recycle because the costs of producing would keep going up. This would happen because trees would get harder or costlier to get, drinking cans and bottles prices would increase, and even medical expenses would rise because of the cost to pick up garbage would be so big.
Even though a lot of people recycle, it still isn’t enough to slow down the use of landfills. We may not be able to recycle every thing that is used, but we can reduce a lot by learning how things could be reused or recycled. It is our job as a society to work toward saving Earth as much as we can and teaching the younger generation to see how serious of an issue this will become. It is important that we continue to research ways to reuse or recycle the common things that cannot be recycled right now, like batteries, chemicals, and Styrofoam. If we do not learn how to deal with these things, then it will eventually affect everyone.
- “40 Interesting Facts About Recycling.” Conserve Energy Future, 3 Jan. 2017, www.conserve-energy-future.com/various-recycling-facts.php.
- “A Brief History of Recycling.” American Disposal Services, www.americandisposal.com/blog/a-brief-history-of-recycling.
- Baskind, Chris. “23 Things That Aren’t Recyclable.” MNN – Mother Nature Network, Mother Nature Network, 31 May 2018, www.mnn.com/lifestyle/recycling/stories/23-things-arent-recyclable.
- Bausback, Brian. “The 3 Most Common Landfill Problems & Solutions.” Handex Consulting & Remediation, 27 Apr. 2016, www.hcr-llc.com/blog/the-3-most-common-landfill-problems-solutions.
- Factors Affecting Gasoline Prices – Energy Explained, Your Guide To Understanding Energy – Energy Information Administration, 8 Aug. 2018, www.eia.gov/energyexplained/?page=nonrenewable_home.
- “How Do I Recycle?: Common Recyclables.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 7 Nov. 2018, www.epa.gov/recycle/how-do-i-recycle-common-recyclables.
- “Recycling: The Good, The Better and The Best.” Visual.ly, visual.ly/community/infographic/environment/recycling-good-better-and-best.